Thursday, February 27, 2014

hitting below the borscht belt

I spent the passed weekend in New Orleans and strangely, the best chow I had was courtesy of our pal Sophia Horodysky who served up an amazing borscht. Living in the mid-Atlantic region - I'm used to the store-bought borscht that comes in a glass quart container -- very purple/red, kinda sweet...mainly a beet consomme with some bits of veggie in it. This was NOT that. This reminds me of the
"paprikach" we'd get at the Cafe Budapest in New Brunswick NJ a long time ago. This place catered to the local Hungarian populace and English was only spoken begrudgingly; and hell, this was their hang out so fair enough that these are the rules of conduct set there -- if ya had a problem with it you could always walk down the street to Greasey Tony's sub shop. ANYWAY - this was hearty, delish as fug and classic garbage gourmandry and thus I share Sophia's recipe with thee.

Making the Broth
"I toss every scrap into a container that lives in my freezer. (Skip stuff in the cabbage/broccoli family though). Onion skins, ginger peel, potato peelings, carrot ends, bell pepper stems and cores, bones and animal organs all work great, I also add cumin/fennel seeds, a few peppercorns, dried mushrooms and dried lemongrass.
Boil and strain all that on occasion.

Making the Borscht
Suggested Music: I'm sure my sainted mother would be appalled but the only stuff I've got in my CD collection of Polish derivation would be Frankie Yankovic's The All Time Great Polkas and Greatest Hits -- which is cool enough in a certain sense; a more high brow selection could be The Music of Armenia: Volume 2; Sharakan, Mediaeval Music.
Now this dish is coming from someone of Ukranian descent and ain't Polish or Armenian. Within folks of Eastern European descent the cultural differences are pronounced enough and guarded jealously. But realistically, we do realize to you honkies we all look the same and eat the same shiz (boiled cabbage, root vegetables and flesh) -- so don't sweat playing Pollack music while ya make Ukranian-oriented chowzers.
Then to start the borscht saute veggies in the pot: beets, carrots, mushrooms, potato/sweet potato, celery, leek, onion, garlic, fennel, turnip, pork/lamb/beef...
Then add the broth you made,
add paprika, cayenne, cumin, tumeric, salt, sage, thyme, rosemary, dill, black pepper, ginger, and whatever else strikes your fancy.
Let cook at a low simmer until meat is tender.
Add a tablespoon tomato paste or some tomato sauce, a few tablespoons vinegar (I suggest red wine or apple cider, I've also put the liquid from black olive jars), a teaspoon sugar/maple syrup/honey, more seasoning (also try sassafras),
I also like to add a can of beans (any type, I often use creamed navy beans).

That's the gist of it. I put all kinds of stuff in, it's often just what is around. It's different every time. If you'd like, I'll teach you about making it with homemade dumplings cooked into it. It's super easy!"

OK, I'll add a dumplings recipe:
throw 1 cup of flour into a bowl
add 1 tsp salt, 1 egg and some water (I'd start with a quarter cup and add drizzles till you get the consistency you favor)
and mix up thoroughly (I use a big wood or steel spoon but if wanna use some fancy mechanical shiz, feel free - more clean up tho!)
basically you want this to be the consistency of cookie dough, all though it's fine to make it a bit wetter which just give you a different final product
then you drop this by the spoonful into the borsht; when it floats to the top, it's done
[if yr dough was the consistency of cookie dough, the dumplings will be firm and dry-ish - sorta like baked potatoes; if you made the dough wetter it'll come out more like thick pasta i.e fettucini or shells]

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